December 2004 News

Peace Without Illusions

18 December 2004
The Asian Age
Ayaz Amir

New Delhi: Appeasement followed by war makes sense and has a logical neatness to it. Chamberlain followed by Churchill, Munich followed by defiance. But war or toughness of posture followed by startling softness is to stand this logic on its head. With single-minded ardour, and no little confusion, this is the course Pakistan has pursued with respect to India over the last year or so. Don't blame the Pakistani people for feeling baffled. Kargil was one extreme, unilateral concessionism another. The first was a military operation driven by the ill-founded belief that Pakistan could inflict a defeat on India in a limited theatre of war and settle the Kashmir dispute on its own terms. Unilateral concessionism is a one-way street built on the equally false premise that where war failed appeasement can succeed. Between these two extremes Pakistan has made nonsense of its Kashmir policy. On seizing power General Pervez Musharraf's tone with regard to India was tough and uncompromising. Soon after September 11, he clenched his fist and told India, 'Lay off,' to the delight of jihadis and the be-tough-with-India brigade. Late in 2003, however, Pakistan suddenly changed tack and from belligerence swung to a path of unilateral concessionism, starting with the declaration of a ceasefire along the Line of Control, followed by frantic declarations of peaceful intent. These were the first steps in the metamorphosis of the Pakistani military from champion of 'jihad' to high priest of 'enlightened moderation.' The common factor linking both mood swings is mindless frenzy. If the promotion of jihad was an exercise in thoughtlessness, the way peace is being pursued gives precious little evidence of careful thinking. Any policy, however, is ultimately judged by its results. Is India impressed? Has it moved the slightest on Kashmir? Is it willing to stop construction of the Baglihar Dam on the River Chenab which Pakistan considers a violation of the all-important Indus Basin Waters Treaty? Is Siachen any closer to a solution? Has the composite dialogue scored any signal successes? If the answer to all the above is no, what accounts for Pakistan's unilateral declaration that it is time to move beyond the UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir? For this startling shift in policy what is the quid pro quo? Has India moved the slightest from its loudly declared position that Kashmir is an integral part of the Indian Union? Is it willing to alter the status quo in Kashmir? If not, what accounts for the optimism in top military circles that a Kashmir agreement which takes into account some, if not all, of Pakistan's concerns is possible with India? After the horses have bolted the feeling is growing in Islamabad that Pakistan has moved too quickly and too far ahead without securing anything in return. The feeling, in short, that under the stimulus of military diplomacy Pakistan has allowed itself to be taken for a ride. There should be some limits to naiveté. The only Kashmir agreement India is willing to contemplate is one sanctifying, not disturbing, the Line of Control. Indian foreign minister Natwar Singh couldn't have been clearer when he suggested the Sino-Indian model of talks for India and Pakistan: not letting their border dispute hinder progress in other fields. The Pakistani leadership should have drawn the proper conclusions from this instead of allowing itself to be swept by unrealistic expectations. The Kashmir dispute is not going to be settled tomorrow. Where war hasn't succeeded, appeasement or unilateral concessionism won't. Pakistan cannot wrest Kashmir from India and India can't deliver Kashmir, or even a tiny sliver of it (much less the Valley), to Pakistan on a platter. This is the situation on the ground. Fine, let Kashmir remain unsettled for fifty or a hundred years, not because we don't want it settled but because we are in no position to dictate our terms. But how does it follow from this that we should oblige India by renouncing our basic stand flowing from the UN Security Council resolutions which call for a plebiscite in Kashmir? Kashmir is disputed territory, its status not settled under international law, something no amount of resolutions in the Indian Parliament can alter. When Pakistani leaders, making off-the-cuff remarks which on such a sensitive matter they shouldn't, try to navigate beyond the UN resolutions, they should realise that the UN resolutions are the only instruments making Pakistan a party to the Kashmir dispute. Without them Pakistan has no leg to stand on. Therefore, no Pakistani leader has the right to shift the goalposts as far as the juridical basis of the Kashmir dispute is concerned. To do so is to do Pakistan, and the Kashmiri people, a gratuitous injustice. Peace with India, yes, peace with India by all means. An end to needless hostility, sabre-rattling and, while on the subject, the silly braggadocio marking the lowering-of-the-flag ceremonies at the Wagah border. But peace without illusions, peace grounded in realism and, while on the subject, peace without NGO-wallahs making a nuisance of themselves by distributing sweets and breaking into mistimed Bhangra dances at the Wagah border (when such effusions of happiness occur, you can tell from the faces of the Indian guards that they don't know what the hell is happening). If there should be no room for unnecessary truculence in Indo-Pak relations, there should be none for misplaced sentimentalism. Let us have open skies and all the trade and travel our two countries can bear. But let's not think for a moment that the road to Kashmir is paved with roses. Or allow ourselves to believe that what we have failed to achieve in war, we will get as a result of Indian generosity. Things don't play out like that in the real world and India is under no obligation to kow-tow to our wishfulness. Normalisation and good neighbourly relations: we could do worse than take a leaf from Bangladesh's book, a country which, despite owing its very birth to Indian bayonets (with no little help from West Pakistani folly), instead of being swept by feelings of gratitude towards India, remains wary of Indian intentions. This is the right stance to take in inter-state relations: stay cool but without lowering your guard, or indeed your suspicions. Sure, there is a school of thought in Pakistan, and a growing one at that, which says, 'To hell with Kashmir,' maintaining that Kashmir is a millstone round Pakistan's neck, the cause fuelling our huge spending on arms. Wrong, Kashmir could be settled tomorrow and we would still have a large military. Militarism is a gift of the wounds of Partition, the holy cow status of the defence establishment stemming from the insecurity besetting Pakistan at its birth. As for militarism running rampant within the country, has it anything to do with Kashmir? Pakistan's repeated trysts with military rule, the failure to achieve political stability, the mockery of constitutionalism, Bhutto's hanging, the regular dismissal of other Prime Ministers, the mess made of East Pakistan, the Eastern Command's abject laying down of arms in the coldest winter of all, 1971: is Kashmir responsible for this sorry history? Let us look at our faults and try to rectify them instead of placing all our troubles at Kashmir's door. Finally, a letter from Mr S. N. Sharma of Vashi, Navi Mumbai: 'I am a member of the Senior Citizens Club at Vashi where people from different walks of life come together and on the basis of their enlightened experience hold discussions (on various issues). Many of them migrated from Pakistan in 1947 with firsthand experience of the holocaust. They and others are of the view that if in the interest of people's wishes, Hyderabad state had to be annexed, Junagarh amalgamated, Goa liberated, Sikkim (made) a part of India, and if, for sake of people's wishes, we could go to war with Pakistan in 1971 and create the independent state of Bangladesh, why can't we create a separate state for Muslims of Kashmir Valley who don't want to remain with India, of which they have given ample proof?'


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